ELKHART — Vernon Garman, 91, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II with a friend — Edward Hardy, another Elkhart veteran who has been featured in The Elkhart Truth’s War Stories series.
“I think maybe Ed might have brought (enlisting) up,” Gaman said during an interview in his Elkhart home Tuesday, Aug. 27. “He said, ‘Everyone is trying to get in the service now, why don’t we see what we can do?’”
Soon after that conversation, Garman was on a boat headed for India. He was 19 at the time, and he said he had no idea where he was going or what he would be doing.
Garman served as a member of the military police on an air base in Karachi, India. He was overseas for three years — from 1942 to 1945.
“My main purpose was to keep the base secure,” Garman said. “We worked eight hours on, eight hours off — and in between they always had something for us to do. They kept us busy.”
Garman remembers that the water pipes for the soldier’s showers weren’t buried — they simply rested on the ground. This made taking a comfortable shower difficult, as the water was always the temperature of the air outside.
“There wasn’t cold water and hot water — there was just water,” Garman said. “You had to take your shower either early or late in the day.”
In the little free time they did have, Garman remembers that he and other soldiers would test drive Harley-Davidson motorcycles that were on the base for military use.
“We were kids, really,” Garman said. “We were just kids.”
During his time in India, Garman said he treasured letters from home. These mostly came from his mother — “I didn’t have no girl,” Garman said.
“We all had gas canisters, and the very best letters, I stuck them behind my canister,” Garman said. “When we came home we turned in all our stuff. I often wonder what happened to those letters.”
His mother kept all of Garman’s letters to her, and the many pictures he sent home. After the war, she gave him the pictures and he still has many of them. Garman said
Garman was hospitalized after the war for 119 days because he had a nervous breakdown, Jean Gaman, his wife, said.
“His mother said he was a mess when he came home,” Jean Garman said. “I didn’t know him then.”
Garman met Jean when she was working as a cashier at a local grocery store. He was ready to settle down, he remembered.
“The best thing that ever happened to me after the war was meeting my wife,” Garman said.
He and Jean moved into a house in Elkhart in 1958, and they’ve lived there since. Garman worked for NIBCO for 44 years.
“As I look back on my life, there isn’t a thing I would change,” Garman said. “Everything had a purpose.”